Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey

I picked this one out from a pile of Penguin vintage crime books in the second-hand book shop in St Andrews. It’s certainly worthwhile reading it if you like crime books. Having said that, when I was about half-way through it I found myself turning the book round to have a look at the cover again. Sure enough, it is a Penguin Classic Crime publication, but the crime is a long time a-coming.
I prefer crime stories to be of the “Good lord! There’s a dead man in my bath!” variety, within the first few pages.

Miss Pym Disposes was first published in 1946 and it’s set in Leys Physical Training College for young women. I always find that settings like that remind me of boarding school books, I half expected Darrel from Malory Towers to be there with her hockey stick.

Anyway, Miss Lucy Pym has been invited to Leys to give a psychology lecture and it is so successful that she’s invited to stay on for a few weeks. Not being one of the staff or a student and being welcomed by them all, Lucy has the opportunity to get to know them all better than would normally have been the case. She uses her knowledge of psychology but things aren’t always what they seem to be, and that is the moral of the story really. Well that and the fact that when a teacher has ‘favourites’ it can have dire consequences.

This book reminded me so much of The Small Room by May Sarton which was published in 1961 and is about plagiarism and favouritism. I think if I had been Josephine Tey I wouldn’t have been happy about it at all. But Tey died in 1952 and nobody seems to have noticed the similarities.

Tey even has the word ‘brilliant’ bandied about to describe various students. In The Small Room ‘brilliant’ is used to describe the student who has plagiarised. However, thankfully Tey has one character who points out that they only have one student who is ‘brilliant’ and in fact she shouldn’t be at the college but should be studying medicine, if only her parents could have afforded it.

I know that if you read lots of books you obviously find similarities in storylines but this just jumps out at you. I think that Miss Pym Disposes is the better book though, it’s a pity that people just think of The Franchise Affair when they think of Josephine Tey.